In my personal opinion, mental health is important for everyone, no matter your race, sexual orientation, age, and more. But for this post, I want to talk about specifically mental health in teenagers. We all have a teenager in our life, whether its your own child, a niece or nephew, or perhaps you are a teacher or coach or therapist who knows plenty of them. In today’s society, the pressure that teenagers face every day is more prominent than ever. You have a group of young adults who one day have to raise their hand to ask to go to the bathroom suddenly making life-altering decisions the next week. So how can we understand mental health in our teenagers better?
Let’s get down to the technical term for it all: adolescents. What is an adolescent you say? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an adolescent is a person from the ages 10-19. That leaves us a pretty big gap in the topic we want to talk about today. Not all adolescents go through the same thing of course, but many face similar problems: puberty, social awkwardness/shyness, and crucial decision making, with all of these at a very young age. And to top it all off, let’s throw some contributing factors of what can cause bad mental health. Any teenager is most likely to experience at least some of these, if not all:
- Pressure to do well in school, or to keep up with monumental amount of homework
- Learning in a very quick environment of how to preform adult tasks, like after-school jobs or taking a driving test
- Social pressures, like having a boyfriend/girlfriend or to make many friends
- Family pressures, like helping to take care of little siblings or to please a parent
- Religious pressures
- An increase into technology, specifically social media
- A bad home or school environment
- Other mental health issues, like anxiety, depression, or maybe even a case of autism or an intellectual disability
This is enough to drive anyone, let alone a teenager, crazy!
So how can we help our teens? A simple way that all of us can start is simply be willing to talk about our mental health and relate to the teens around us. You may feel like as an adult, you could never possibly relate to your teenager, with their different music and strange fashion sense at times. But remember, we were all kids once too. And even though your experiences might differ from theirs, surely you can remember what it was like to grow up with some sort of pressure as an adolescent. By using a “supportive network” system, you and your teen can come up with your own action plan.
Does this feel like to much work for yourself? Are you not even sure where to begin? No worries! There are plenty of groups to help with this, even if you have to rely on the Internet because you can’t find a local group around you. If you feel like you are in need of professional help, the teen’s school should have a licensed counselor on file, or access to get one to the school. And of course there are plenty of private practices out there, but they tend to be more expensive. Does your teen belong to a church? Lot’s of bigger churches employ people of all kinds of backgrounds and experiences, and if religion is an important part of the teen’s life, this could be a great spot to start with.
By using early detection methods, we can help our teens before serious solutions, like medications, should be used. Although, if your doctor/counselor suggests medications, please make an informed decision about it and talk to your teen about their wants and needs too.
I would say that the biggest hurdle that we adults face is the relating part of all of this. Look, I’m only 25-years-old and I don’t understand half of what teenagers are doing around me. I have two siblings who will be 15 in March and half of the things they say are met with a blank stare by me. I can’t do any of those Tik Tok dances and don’t ask me what certain words mean. But when one of them tells me that they are having issues at school, especially issues like fitting in with their friends or having an issue with a condescending teacher, I’m all over that. Because guess what? I was that kid that felt so alone in school. I had friends, but often struggled to find my place in the bigger picture. I was a major target for bullying, and the teacher’s really didn’t care about stepping in to solve the problem. It’s probably pretty apparent that I’m well versed in these kinds of issues. And because of that, my mental health took a huge toll. I also had a lot of problems at home, wasn’t the greatest of students, and went through quite a long “Ugly Betty” phase. Again, I’m 25-years-old and still struggling with these problems!
If I could make one change from back then, it would have been to find compassionate adults who listened and cared about the problems I was facing, and even if they problem wasn’t resolved, we could at least have a common point in our conversations. Speaking from experience, it it REALLY important to care about our teens and their mental health!
Mental health problems will never just “go away”, especially not with the way things are going right now. But having a better understanding of it will help shed the light that we all need to see and hopefully one day in the future, we will all heal from it.
Until next time.